* Opposition calls for protests on Tuesday
* Demonstrations against Islamist-backed constitution
* Public prosecutor resigns, opposition cheers
By Yasmine Saleh and Shaimaa Fayed
CAIRO, Dec 18 Egypt's opposition will hold new
protests on Tuesday against an Islamist-backed draft
constitution that has divided the nation but which looks set to
be approved in the second round of a referendum next weekend.
Islamist President Mohamed Mursi obtained a 57 percent "yes"
vote for the constitution in a first round of the referendum on
Saturday, state media said, less than he had hoped for.
The result is likely to embolden the opposition, which says
the law is too Islamist. But they are unlikely to win this
Saturday's second round, to be held in districts seen as even
more sympathetic towards Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood.
Protesters broke out into cheers when the public prosecutor
Mursi appointed last month announced his resignation late on
Monday. Further signs of opposition emerged when a judges' club
urged its members not to supervise Saturday's vote. But the call
is not binding on members and balloting is expected to go ahead.
If the constitution passes next weekend, national elections
can take place early next year, something many hope will help
end the turmoil that has gripped Egypt since the fall of Hosni
Mubarak nearly two years ago.
The main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front,
said there were widespread voting violations in the first round
of the referendum and urged organisers to ensure that the second
round was properly supervised.
It has called for protests across Egypt on Tuesday "to stop
forgery and bring down the invalid draft constitution" and wants
organisers to re-run the first round of voting.
The Ministry of Justice said it was appointing a group of
judges to investigate allegations of voting irregularities
around the country.
In Cairo, the Front planned to hold demonstrations at Tahrir
Square, cradle of the revolution that toppled Mubarak, and
outside Mursi's presidential palace, still ringed with tanks
after earlier protests.
"Down with the constitution of the Brotherhood," the Front
said in a statement. "Down with the constitution of tyranny."
A protester at the presidential palace, Mohamed Adel, 30,
said: "I have been camping here for weeks and will continue to
do so until the constitution that divided the nation, and for
which people died, gets scrapped."
The build-up to the first round of voting saw clashes
between supporters and opponents of Mursi in which eight people
died. Recent demonstrations in Cairo have been more peaceful,
although rival factions clashed on Friday in Alexandria, Egypt's
second biggest city.
On Monday evening, more than 1,300 members of the General
Prosecution staff gathered outside the office of Public
Prosecutor Talaat Ibrahim to demand that he leave his post.
Hours later, Ibrahim announced he had resigned and the crowd
cheered, "God is Great! Long live justice!" and "Long live the
independence of the judiciary!" witnesses said.
The closeness of the first-round referendum vote and low
turnout give Mursi scant comfort as he seeks to assemble support
for difficult economic reforms to reduce the budget deficit.
He will hold a further round of national unity talks with
political leaders on Tuesday, but the National Salvation Front
is expected to stay away, as it has in the past.
The lack of a big majority in the plebiscite so far has
complicated matters for Mursi, strengthening the fractious
opposition and casting doubt on the credibility of the
constitution, political analysts believe.
"This percentage ... will strengthen the hand of the
National Salvation Front and the leaders of this Front have
declared they are going to continue this fight to discredit the
constitution," said Mustapha Kamal Al-Sayyid, a professor of
political science at Cairo University.
Mursi would be likely to become more unpopular with the
introduction of planned austerity measures, polarising society
further, Sayyid told Reuters.
To tackle the budget deficit, the government needs to impose
tax rises and cut back fuel subsidies. Uncertainty surrounding
economic reform plans has already forced the postponement of a
$4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. The
Egyptian pound has fallen to eight-year lows against the dollar.
Mursi and his backers say the constitution is is needed to
move Egypt's democratic transition forward. Opponents say the
document is too Islamist and ignores the rights of women and of
minorities, including Christians who make up 10 percent of the
Demonstrations erupted when Mursi awarded himself extra
powers on Nov. 22 and then fast-tracked the constitution through
an assembly dominated by his Islamist allies and boycotted by
The referendum has had to be held over two days because many
of the judges needed to oversee polling staged a boycott in
protest. In order to pass, the constitution must be approved by
more than 50 percent of those voting.